Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Some updates might be safe to uninstall, but doing so makes some risky assumptions. Most programs keep only the patches they need.


Is it safe to uninstall or delete updates to programs after one has installed them? My add/remove is chock full of updates and I'm thinking if they've been installed or superseded by later updates, I should be able to uninstall them.

Is it safe? Kinda, sorta, but not really.

Do I think you should do it? Nope.

The updates are there for a reason.

I do first have to say that since you mention generic "programs", this answer has to kind of assume the most common case. I'm certain that there are programs out there for which it's perfectly acceptable to uninstall, for example, version 1.2 if you have version 1.3 installed. It's bad programming on that application's part, but it could be quite ok.

I just have no way to know which programs you have that might fall into that bucket.

"When updating itself, a well behaved program will automatically remove any prior updates that are no longer necessary."

When updating itself a well behaved program will automatically remove any prior updates that are no longer necessary. In other words, they do the work you're asking about already. You'll often see this when installing a new version of a program; it might ask or instruct you to uninstall the old version first. The same is generally true with patches.

Windows itself typically has a long list of patches. When you install a service pack, such as XP's Service Pack 3, you'll see that long list get significantly shorter, since all the patches are "rolled up" into the service pack.

Now, you can uninstall individual patches. The problem is that you are undoing whatever it was the patch fixed. You might be re-introducing a security hole or some other kind of bug or vulnerability.

And sometimes you have to. But not for housekeeping. Occasionally, a patch will have unintended or unexpected side effects, and a temporary resolution might be to uninstall a specific fix.

So my advice is to leave them be. For the most part, the list of patches is there on purpose, and you don't really want to get rid of any of them.

Uncheck the "Show Updates" box at the top of the Add/Remove Window to hide them if they get in your way.

Article C3442 - July 11, 2008 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

July 12, 2008 5:44 AM

I have a friend actually think the same, he was thought that is no necessary to update windows or install new versions for programs ,and i was try to advise him but with no result , but before a few weeks he faced problems with his computer system and he discovered the problem was from his negligence with updates for his computer system ,at the end he satisfied with important of updates and that it's an important factor for stability and balance system and for programs too.

thank you Leo for the useful article.

July 15, 2008 6:33 PM

I have noticed the following installed:

Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1
Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 hotfix
Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 1(195MB)
Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 Service Pack 1(250MB)
Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 (27.75 MB)

I wonder if the previous versions are necessary...

July 16, 2008 2:30 AM

I want to respond to Jay-Jay. I have a similar question to yours. I actually tried uninstalling the previous versions but the system would not let me. A message would pop up that they are being used by other applications.So perhaps the older versions are still required.

Terry Hollett
July 16, 2008 1:53 PM

The Sun Java Enviroment is also nortorius for crappy updates. Leaving older version behind. At one time I had 3 different update folders, each with over 100MB of files each. I now uninstall the old before installing any new. If you have more than one, uninstalling the old seems to have no affect on the new.

Nicholas Gimbrone
July 18, 2008 3:31 PM

.Net 3.0 adds function above & beyond .Net 2.0, and thus still requires it for any application that uses .Net 3.0. .Net 2.0 is not compatible with .Net 1.1, and any application that is using .Net 1.1 still requires it to be present. I don't know what the rules are for .Net 3.5, but I do know that (clearly) all this .Net stuff is pretty much a confusing mess, eh? ;-)

January 10, 2010 9:33 PM

This did let me at least know that I'm not the only one that keeps having Windows XP Updates, automatically installed,& Security updates as weLl.There are about 30 of them now,& I'm out of disk space,& now my printer doesn't even have enough room to exist because of them!I do have an iphone(it's brand new,so I've not utilized the apple site at all on my home computer,there's no room!),CAN ANYONE HELP ME?I WANT ENOUGH ROOM TO USE MY PRINTER AGAIN!Thanks,I'm desperate

July 5, 2011 3:22 PM

I did read your advice on leaving Net Framework
alone of it is there. Our problem is that for the past 2 years we have not been successfull in Net Framework updates getting installed after their download. We do not have any of the Net Programs on my Win XP SP3 Home Edition computer. Do I need them, and if so how do I get the ones I need? Incidentally, our XP Laptop runs fine. Any advice?

Ken Robson
November 29, 2011 3:22 AM

I am a little confused by the comment that deleting patches/updates will uninstall that update. I had assumed that if, for example patch KB12345 updated file progABC.exe, if you then deleted KB12345 progABC.exe would stay updated and you were now just removing a redundant update file. Is this not the case?

It depends on what you mean by "deleting patches/updates" - certainly deleting them in Control Panel will uninstall them. Deleting the backup files created as part of their installation will not uninstall the patch, and in fact will make it impossible to uninstall since there's no prior version kept to revert to.

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